(WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13, 2013)—Today, four LGBTQ DREAMers, who were recently granted work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, traveled from across the country to attend a White House reception in honor of Pride month.
The four DREAMers—Carla Lopez and Luis Liang of San Francisco, Jose Mendoza of Los Angeles, and Alejandra “Ale” Estrada of Las Vegas—met one-on-one with President Obama, sharing their personal immigration stories and thanking him for the DACA program. June 15 marks the one-year anniversary of the DACA program, which gives young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legally work in the U.S. and no longer live under a threat of deportation.
These four LGBTQ DREAMers—who received grants through the LGBTQ DREAMers Fund created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to pay for their DACA fees—are actively engaged in the fight for immigration reform. Their commitment to reform reflects the commitment of the larger LGBTQ community to pass common-sense, compassionate reform that puts our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants, on a path to citizenship.
“It was just a few months ago that I lived my life by a simple rule—don’t do anything to attract attention and never mention my immigration status,” said Carla, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her parents as a toddler to pursue a better life. “I never could have dreamed that in just six months’ time I would be approved for the DACA program, invited to the White House and meeting the President of the United States.”
Ale expressed her appreciation for the President’s support of comprehensive immigration reform during. “I am eternally thankful to President Obama for creating the DACA program, and I stand in support of the next step—compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will allow more LGBTQ immigrants and all immigrants—to live their lives with Pride,” she said.
The delegation that visited the White House includes:
Alejandra “Ale” Estrada (Las Vegas) Ale was three months old when her mother brought her and her sister across the U.S.-Mexico border. From the time she was old enough to talk, her father instructed her to tell people that she was from Nevada, not Mexico. Her mom, dad and older sister are also undocumented, and her parents lived in constant fear of her family being torn apart. Ale, who started a housecleaning business, has struggled with both the challenges presented by her undocumented status and the challenges of being LGBT.
Jose Mendoza (Los Angeles) Jose excelled in high school, but he couldn’t apply to top colleges. They were too expensive, and because of his undocumented status, he couldn’t apply for financial aid. In 2011, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His dad worked construction in another state to pay the bills, and Jose became his mother’s primary caregiver, as well as the caregiver of his three younger brothers. Jose’s mother is now in remission, and Jose has enrolled in the nursing program at Santa Monica College, and is on the way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a nurse. Jose is excited to be in Washington, D.C. during Pride month where he can celebrate being both a member of the LGBTQ community and a DACA recipient.
Luis Liang (San Francisco) After arriving in the U.S. when he was 14 years old, Luis worked hard in high school and was eventually awarded a full scholarship to U.C. Berkeley in 2009. When he arrived on campus, the university informed him that his undocumented status prohibited him from receiving the publicly funded scholarship. Luis returned to Orange County, where he went to community college and worked two jobs to save money. He started a support organization, the Fullerton College DREAM Team, and learned about various private scholarships available to DREAMers. When he re-enrolled in Berkeley, Luis met other double minorities like himself, LGBTQ students who were also undocumented. He graduated in May 2012 and, last month, he received his DACA application approval and began interviewing for jobs. He wants to start a nonprofit that will help students from immigrant and low-income families gain access to higher education.
Carla Lopez (San Francisco) Carla, who recently graduated from the University of California, Davis, came to the U.S. as a toddler, and spent years in constant fear that teachers or friends would find out she was undocumented. Her new DACA status lifted this shadow. “I grew up in a world where immigration raids were taking place at work, school, and even in the ‘safety’ of homes. For me, the time period between 5 and 6 a.m.—when immigration raids are usually conducted in homes—would be filled with much panic and anguish, as I lay awake in my bed—afraid that either my parents or I would be next.”